Strings - cost

April 11, 2020, 8:06 AM · Why are violin/viola/cello strings so expensive as compared to strings for guitars, harps, and pianos?

I understand there may be higher manufacturing costs involved but there appears to be something else going on and I’m not sure what it is. A set of Thomastik PI strings costs 144 USD while a set of Thomastik classical guitar strings goes for around 44 USD. Why is there a $100 difference? (And note that guitar set comes with 6 strings, not 4).

Replies (21)

April 11, 2020, 8:10 AM · Among other things it might be because many more guitar strings are sold than violin strings.
April 11, 2020, 8:29 AM · For another thing, the "overwound" strings for bowed instruments have the winding process over the basic filament cord. For another, the bowed strings must have a certain amount of internal damping to avoid interference between the driving force (i.e., bowing) and and the string vibration.
April 11, 2020, 10:10 AM · The material and manufacturing costs for piano, harp, and guitar strings are lower. As others have pointed out, good quality bowed strings have a synthetic core that’s wrapped with a metal wire like steel, silver, or tungsten. There are cheap violin sets that are made more like guitar strings that cost about $20, but they don’t perform well.

The price you quoted for PI strings is a lot higher than what many people charge for a set. You might be looking in the wrong place.

Strings are an investment, and their cost adds up over time. But they play a very important part in getting a good sound. If you’re very careful to keep them clean, you’ll get a good playing life out of them.

April 11, 2020, 10:36 AM · Violinists change their strings less often and are more frivolous with their money—try convincing the average guitarist to spend $40 on a platinum-coated E string.
Thus, the prices continue to be hiked up, higher and higher...
Edited: April 12, 2020, 12:56 PM · Yeah, I have wondered about that as well. I play guitar (steel strings), mandolin, and banjo, and all of those instruments have strings that cost way less than violin strings. I mean pro level strings, not cheap student strings. For example, a set of 8 mandolin strings costs between $10 and $18 for a top end set, and guitar strings are even less (for six). Granted, violin strings do tend to last longer than what is typical for these other instruments, but still....
Edited: April 12, 2020, 2:03 PM · Have you not also noticed that "martini olives" are more expensive than olives not specifically labeled for that purpose?
April 12, 2020, 8:51 PM · To the OP:
because all the prices related to the bowed instruments world are exagerated. Every little thing .....
April 13, 2020, 7:52 AM · Thanks everyone for your feedback. I'll make sure I do a better job keeping my strings so they last longer. I think it would really interesting to see the manufacturing process from the raw materials to the finished product. I got interested manufacturing just a few years ago when I worked for a flour milling company. By seeing the process in person, I got real appreciation on how wheat is turned into flour (and the impurities that have to be removed - e.g. rocks and dead insects).
Edited: April 13, 2020, 8:05 AM · A generous assumption would be that violin strings come in for a lot more punishment than guitar strings, so they have to be better made.
Piano strings are cheap?
You could argue they come in for a lot of punishment: otoh, they are heavy-duty steel. I never saw one break and don't know of anyone who has ever bought one.
April 13, 2020, 8:21 AM · Perhaps one of the interesting and fun things about the playing the violin is the experimentation/customization that comes from using different strings and rosins.
April 13, 2020, 1:12 PM · The selling price of a set of strings - or anything else for that matter - is related only to the expected willingness of the customer to pay a certain price. It is not related to production cost, R&D spend or any other parameter. Thomastik must think that violinists are willing to spend 100 $ more for a set of strings than guitar players are. Even with only 4 strings vs 6 - and the violin strings are shorter too....
April 13, 2020, 1:32 PM · I agree. I think it's a combination of at what level the customer is willing to pay and at what level the manufacturer is willing to sell. Perhaps the market for violin strings is greater say in more affluent urban areas (London, Singapore, Sao Paolo for example).
April 13, 2020, 1:35 PM · Viola strings cost almost twice as much as violin strings of the same brand. That has to be a function of the price level at which the manufacturer is willing to sell.
April 13, 2020, 1:36 PM · Andrew, that's a good question. I'm not sure on that one.
April 13, 2020, 2:03 PM · (Sorry, Raymond -- edited my post to change it from a question to a statement because the question was in response to Bo and you responded while I was typing it!)
April 13, 2020, 4:00 PM · I just had a quick look at my usual string suppliers web page and the price difference violin-viola is more like 20-30% for a set. The E string being simply a piece of wire is always the cheapest of the violin set. In a viola set it is replaced by a wound string - often wound with wolfram or silver so it would make sense to set the price higher.
Compare individual strings A, D and G of the same brand between violin and viola and the price difference is less than 10%. And in several cases the violin strings were the most expensive!
Why is Violino half the price of Obligato/Evah Pirazzi? Same winding material, same core material. But different customer target group. When you buy Obligato or EP you are buying something more than a simple "student string". And naturally you have to pay more for that.....
April 13, 2020, 8:37 PM · Because you couldn't sell a $125 set of guitar strings for an expensive $400 guitar, whereas who cares about the cost of strings for an averge low grade $3000 violin!
April 13, 2020, 10:36 PM · Where are you getting your strings? I'm a violist. Everywhere I've ever shopped, the difference is at least 80%.
April 14, 2020, 9:09 AM · Andrew Victor mentions damping.

A guitar string should ring, while a violin string should be subservient to rapid bow-changes. Gut strings are naturally damped by the friction between fibres. (I believe tennis players prefer gut..) For synthetic bowed strings, there is a layer of resins between the tressed nylon fibres and the metal windings. The manufacture is complex and costly.

That said, I have a sneaking suspicion that the shorter life of the more expensive strings, and the continual introduction of new miracle brands, is pure marketing, not to say planned obsolescence!

My instruments are strung with Tonicas, with sets of Obligatos in reserve for more "punch".

Edited: April 14, 2020, 11:13 AM · I've taken apart a few kinds of strings and haven't ever seen any evidence of such a resin. But maybe you're right. Even so, past the overhead of all the machinery required, the cost of making violin strings is really minimal. In any case, definitely not high enough that they *need* to make a set of EPs $120 over here in Kanuckistan---especially considering the volume of strings being sold. But since that's what people will pay...

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